Remember those words. No matter what happens tomorrow in Baltimore, remember that your Houston Texans are playing with house money. They won the AFC South and a playoff game despite suffering through a spate of injuries that could have easily destroyed a lesser team. Considering all that's happened this season, the Texans have exceeded every reasonable expectation that I could have had for them. Furthermore, had you asked Houston fans prior to the season if they would have taken a division title, a playoff victory and called it a year, I'm guessing 99% would have answered in the affirmative without any hesitation.
This isn't to say that the Texans are going to get their arse handed to them tomorrow in Baltimore. I don't think they will. The Texans are too talented, too resilient, to get embarrassed. They may lose, but they're not going to roll over. In fact, I think the final score of tomorrow afternoon's game will be...wait a second. I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's knock out a few other predictions first.
1. The first time the Texans played the Bengals, Andre Johnson did not play. Not coincidentally, Arian Foster was contained. The first time the Texans played the Ravens, Andre Johnson did not play. Not coincidentally, Arian Foster was contained. Last week, Andre Johnson played, and Arian Foster ran wild. The Ravens' defense is better than Cincinnati's, but I do not expect them to contain Arian this week. I also don't believe Foster will run amok to the extent he did last week.
Foster will account for 125 total yards (I'd peg his rushing total at 80 yards) and a TD. Ben Tate will chime in with 30 rushing yards on limited carries. Oh, and that Andre Johnson fella? He's going to be shut out of the end zone, but he's going to finish with six catches for 98 yards.
2. When the teams met in Week Six, Tim Jamison accounted for all of the Texans' sacks (2) on the afternoon. That was Houston's first game without Mario Williams. The sack total that day may not have been impressive, but I very clearly recall the Texans hitting Joe Flacco a lot, to the point that I totally bought in to what this defense could do, even without Super Mario (tragically, MDC did not share my opTIMism).
The Ravens welcome Ben Grubbs, who is a stud, back to their OL, so the sledding will be tougher for Wade Phillips' charges this time around. Doesn't matter. They're gonna whacko the Flacco. I foresee sacks by Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin, and yes, J.J. Watt, plus a handful of other hits and pressures. Your heart is going to burst with love for Wade Phillips tomorrow. Have your cardiologist on speed dial. Or, if you're BFD, you've already led a long, full life, so just go into the light.
3. Five words, friends: Jacoby. Jones. Punt. Return. Touchdown. I also think Danieal Manning is going to return a kick for 35+ yards. Really like the special teams matchup for the Texans.
PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: Like many Texans fans, I'm of the mind that this game is all about Joe Flacco. If he melts down, the Texans win. To that end, I think the magic number is three. Three Baltimore turnovers (whether by Flacco or a combination of other Ravens), and your Houston Texans are heading to the AFC Championship Game. I don't see T.J. Yates posting a zero in the turnover column tomorrow; I'm betting on at least one interception or a strip sack fumble, so what Flacco does is even more important. If the Texans finish +2 in the turnover department, I'd call Houston 23, Baltimore 20. If they don't finish +2 in the turnover department, the Ravens win. For some reason, I'm seeing a +1 Houston advantage in turnovers so, as much as it pains me to predict this, I'm going to say the final score of tomorrow's game is Texans 17, Ravens 23. And I'll still be proud as hell of this team.Texans vs Ravens coverage